This weekend, our family was able to participate with a team of 20 people from Fountain of Life Church (Lusaka) traveling together to minister in Nahubwe village, near Itezhi-Tezhi. This gave us a taste of life in rural Zambia, and it was a fruitful trip, encouraging and teaching church members in this village area.
The ladies from Fountain of Life brought great encouragement and teaching. Dr. Karen and Cecilia Luwi (a midwife from Fountain of Life) teamed up to teach about preventing and managing obstetrical emergencies. The nearest “rural health center” to the village is about 5 miles away…which is a long walk when you’re in labour! This was a vital subject, as the young sister of the local school headmaster died from complications in childbirth just a couple weeks ago.
Talking about the travel
We got the team into three vehicles for the trip, with most of the gear up on the roofs of the two Land Cruisers. Special thanks to Geoffery Fungula for helping me construct a cargo carrier in the few days before we headed out! To get to Itezhi-Tezhi, first you drive about 200km west from Lusaka, into the Kafue National Park. Then you leave pavement behind as you head south for another 100km on a dirt road. It’s not very crowded out there–we saw more baboons than cars along that stretch! The road itself is pretty rough. Driving is a trade-off of finding the right balance between going fast enough to arrive before dark, while keeping the risk of damaging the vehicle acceptably low. Occasionally we had good enough stretches to reach the dizzying speed of 60km per hour (40mph)!
Once we’d reached the appropriate spot, we turned off the “main road” onto a narrow track to head further into the bush to the village itself, where we arrived together at sunset, and were well-welcomed by our village hosts.
A few comments about life in the village
Africa is a land of contrasts, and some of these contrasts are especially visible around Itezhi-Tezhi. Village life involves no electricity, no running water, and farming & fishing for your own food. Access to medical care is limited, and don’t dream of going to the supermarket. (The closest thing to a supermarket is about 20 miles away in Itezhi-Tezhi town, where they may or may not have something on the shelf, depending on when a truck has brought supplies).
On the other hand, a dam was built on the Kafue river at Itezhi-Tezhi, creating both a large lake and a hydroelectric power plant. The electricity generated there supplies the electricity demand in Lusaka and the Copperbelt…but there is still no electricity for the villages just a few miles away from the dam itself. To heighten the irony further, the installation of a cell phone tower a few miles from the village meant that we could get a great cell phone signal! (Of course, you’d need a creative way to charge your phone…)
In this setting, we were welcomed with great hospitality, with the women of the village working very hard on our behalf to fetch water and to cook for us all. The ladies even heated water over the fire so we could use warm water for bathing (from a bucket, naturally). We brought drinking water from Lusaka and some food to share, but the villagers also brought fish and bushmeat to supplement the nshima and rice.
Families are typically large–five or six children per woman is a common number, with some families being larger. Sadly, mortality is also a common reality. In addition to the loss of the schoolmaster’s sister this month, the church has also been caring for a young widow whose husband passed away late last year. She’s nursing their sixth child while helping lead worship!
Here is life literally “at the end of the road”. During the four days we were there, our own vehicles were the only ones that came down the road into the village. The air was very clear, and because there were no lights, the nighttime sky was breathtaking. ”Starlight” takes on new meaning when the sky is full of stars you’ve never been able to see from the city.
Learning and Worshiping Together
Our visit was a special occasion in the village, and people walked for miles to participate in the training conference. During the daytime, the ladies used the main school classroom for their lessons, while the men gathered under some trees outdoors. In the evenings after dinner, over a hundred people gathered for worship meetings at the school, with lighting supplied by the generator we’d brought along from Lusaka.
It is hard to know whether the depth of faith is “despite” the challenges of life and death in the village, or whether those difficulties are the seedbed of faith. But certainly these challenges are the soil in which their faith is growing, and it was a privilege to bring instruction and encouragement to their lives. Fountain of Life church in Lusaka has been particularly faithful in strengthening this village church. The village congregation is in the process of constructing a building on the edge of the village. The walls are up, and they are working with the goal of being able to purchase lumber for building roof trusses this year. Fountain of Life (Lusaka) has donated roofing sheets already, so once the roof trusses are built, they’ll be able to begin using the building.
Life moves at a slower pace in the village than in the city, so it is no surprise that the meetings began later than scheduled, usually an hour or two later…. In the evenings, this meant that our younger daughter was falling over asleep before the meeting began, with her older sister following closely thereafter–only to have the drumming and singing to begin right on the other side of the wall from where they were sleeping. We’re really proud of how well our girls handled the challenges of “sleeping”, bathing, and eating in the village. They made friends and found ways to play together. Since the ground is very sandy there, it was a lot of fun to simply play in the dirt.
When it was time for us to leave after church on Sunday, they wouldn’t let us go until they’d fed us lunch and sent some gifts along with us back to Lusaka. We received large sacks of sweet potatoes and cassava roots. Some villagers brought watermelons and pumpkins to send with us. Hudson was given a string of freshly caught fish, and one of our ladies even received a live chicken! (Thankfully, these gifts didn’t travel home in our car!)
A thankful heart finds ways to give–or is it that giving helps us find ways to be thankful?